Ever been held prisoner by a behavioural pattern that does not benefit you? Loathed yourself endlessly because of your sheer inability to break out of it? Do you feel it drag you down further into a dark place where your self-esteem and confidence are torn to shreds?
Guess what. We’ve all been there. Done that. And survived. And so can you.
Negative or toxic patterns are a part of our behaviour and psyche. A majority of them can be often traced back to our childhood, where they probably took root and were watered and sunned in the years to follow, only to grow into a strong, deep-rooted tree. Therefore, uprooting a toxic pattern not only takes superhuman strength, but also time and persistence.
But before we get into the uprooting, perhaps it would serve us to understand a bit about patterns and how they form. In a candid conversation with Sohini Bhowmik, Founder of Synergy Sessions, a self-development platform, there was much to learn.
“By definition, a pattern is something that keeps repeating itself. Some of our patterns could do serious harm, depending on the grip they have on us. A toxic one could create fear psychosis that impacts physical health or comes armed with repercussions like stress, anxiety, insomnia, poor gut health, auto immune conditions, heart ailments and even cancer,” she shares.
A person stuck in a toxic pattern may suffer at multiple levels, not limited to the physical. “A toxic pattern tends to be quite draining both physically and mentally since our attention is constantly on it. Hence the vital life force that should have been used towards productive activities gets drained in this constant battle trying to extricate ourselves from the pattern and failing to do so.”
Trying to break out of a pattern and failing consistently can also be extremely frustrating. While you may make some progress one time, another situation could catch you off guard and drag you back to the starting point. It is also interesting to note that patterns tend to surface with full force exactly when you are trying to free yourself, making the process even more challenging than it already is. Bhowmik’s positive take on it is, “This happens because life is giving them an opportunity to deal with the unresolved issues.”
So how do we do it? What’s the secret weapon and strategy behind unshackling yourself from a toxic pattern?
The first step is to become aware of the pattern, observe it and accept that it exists. Imagine the poor souls who live their lives blissfully unaware of their toxic patterns, living in misery as a result. Gradually, learn to identify it when it rears its ugly head. It is at that point when you find yourself at the threshold that you lift those leaden feet and walk a different path. But yes, it all begins with awareness. There can be no change without awareness. Bhowmik affirms this. “The moment one is aware of the pattern, half of the battle is won. Why? That is because you cannot see the circle till the time you are part of it. To be able to see the circle you need to have a bird’s eye view, that is, you need to distance yourself from the situation to get a complete perspective. The moment you are able to do that, the cycles become evident and you are able to gain perspective of what is happening.”
As she suggests, the next step is to find the source of the pattern. What triggers it? As mentioned earlier, the pattern could possibly be traced to childhood or a painful event. Find it. When stuck in the loop of your toxic pattern, the mind tends to place the blame on circumstances and people – anything that is not you. This is easier to do. However, as the search within gets warmer, you realise that the problem starts with you. It starts when you allow yourself to be affected by negativity or undesirable events. Now if you choose to not respond and be least affected by it, there is hope. Hope to being close to ending a pattern that was bringing you down.
According to Bhowmik, the last and final step is disengagement. “Once you have identified yourself as the core of the problem and taken responsibility of the same, intentionally disengage from the cycle. It may not be possible for you to actually physically move places or leave a certain toxic individual but ensure that you do not power their influence on your life. How do you do that? It is simpler than you would imagine. JUST STOP GIVING ATTENTION. Remember where attention goes, energy flows. So if you keep thinking of a certain bad experience even sub consciously, you would keep manifesting that experience in your life repeatedly.”
Perhaps an effective way to distract yourself from giving in to the pattern is to find a substitute activity. That’s what Bhomik suggests. “The right way is to ‘redirect’ or ‘rechannelise’ your energy towards a desirable direction. Instead of elimination, use substitution. Give your time and attention towards your dreams and desires and you shall find that the toxic patterns shall end organically, on their own.”
In addition, there are other mediums to help you out. Practising meditation, spending time in nature, surrounding yourself with positive and motivating people are some of the ways to clear your vibe and replenish yourself.
And what is life after the successful break from a pattern? Wonderful!
“Breaking away from toxic patterns is probably the most transformative experience one can have. Just the way a toxic pattern affects you at every level, breaking away from it benefits you at every level too. You need to empty your closet of all the junk in order to get the desired positive things to flow in. The only caveat is one needs to deal with the ‘empty closet’ for some time,” says Bhowmik.
So pause. Observe. Be mindful of what you do. Identify it. Watch it in action. Bid your time and then, go break it. Time, patience, effort and perseverance is what you have to invest. And the returns are so much more!